2019 spending £22,478 / year: Our most frugal year & below household average

05.29.2019 Eshaness (1)
Is there a pot of gold?

2019 has been an unusual year with no trips abroad in our campervan and a house move.  We have stayed alive and healthy and we spent two months touring Scotland in our campervan, learning to love that country even more and visiting Shetland for the first time, leaving a little bit of our hearts there.  Financially it has been good too.  We have stayed within budget; in 2019 our household spending was as low as £22,428.  The ONS calculate that the average household in the north-west of England spent £26,062 a year in 2017-2018.  Of course, this average will include large families and single-person households, households that have expensive hobbies [like a campervan], those who are home all day and people who have little money or are super-frugal.  Although we don’t consider ourselves to be average, we generally aim to spend less than this average.  I had hoped that our frugal fail in 2018 was a blip [we spent over £28,000] and it certainly seems that we have got back on track in 2019.

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Our household spending from 2010 to 2019

Despite the rigour of my spreadsheets, our annual spending creates a graph that looks like a roller coaster and this does make a bit of a joke of the budgeting we do.  Over the last nine years our spending has ranged over £6,000 from £21,972 to £28,107, not allowing for inflation.  All this information really tells me is there are expensive years and cheaper years and that our budget for 2020 of around £26,000 doesn’t look too unrealistic.  What is interesting is that our 2019 spending of £22,428 is our next to lowest spending year [and a rough online inflation calculator suggests that £21,972 in 2011 is now the equivalent of over £27,000] so for us 2019 has been a frugal year.

This household spending does gloss over the £36,000 plus that has disappeared from our savings and been spent on our recent house move and the improvements to bring our 1960s bungalow into the 21st century.  It seemed fair to leave out these one-off costs as they would have massively skewed the figures but it also seemed best to fess up about this spending here.  Of course before we took the plunge of moving we did the sums and, although when our pensions start paying in 2026 we will have considerably less savings in the bank, we felt it was an outlay that was manageable … but time will tell.  The move became essential for our well-being and we are reasonably comfortable that we will have enough of an emergency fund to take us into our old age.  Who knows what will happen with the cost of care by the time we are in our 80s and whether we will need any.  We certainly won’t have much money spare for anything expensive but we live in hope that a fair system will be in place by then.

Our own expensive hobby of running a campervan and having lots of holidays continues and this is generally our downfall.  If we never went anywhere our spending would be much lower!  Everyone spends their money in their own way, this is how our 2019 spending pans out:

Essentials – total £7,721 [35% of total spending] [2018 £9,654 / 34%]

Food – £3,491 [2018 £3,870] – This is an essential but also an easy area to control and after the shock of 2018 we have been careful to use the cheaper supermarkets.  We cook mostly from scratch, including making bread, only ever buy what we need and rarely waste anything.  We now have a garden but don’t expect to start growing food, as this doesn’t really work with taking a long holiday.

Utilities, insurance & service charges for a 2-bed 58 sq mtrs [624 sq feet] flat for 10 months & a 2-bed 57.2 sq mtrs [615.7 sq feet] bungalow for 2 months – £3,974 [2018 £4,841] – We have been home more than previous years but try and restrain our use of the heating and water.  Our bungalow is more expensive to run in terms of utilities than the flat, despite good insulation, so watch this space for 2020.  But a big plus of not living in a flat is that we no longer have service charges of over £1,000/year!  On the flip-side we are now responsible for the upkeep of our four walls and roof, not to mention a garden, this feels a bit daunting just at the moment.

Our health [including tai chi classes] – £256 [2018 £943] – We had no expensive spectacles or dental work this year, hurrah!  We were lucky to find another reasonably priced tai chi class in Morecambe, at £3 each a week this is manageable and we can afford to attend regularly.

Stuff (electronics, newspapers and other kit) – £3,151 [14% of total spending] [2018 £3,333 / 11%]

Household spending [everything from glue and newspapers to parts for the bikes and a new kettle] & miscellaneous un-identified items – £2,300 [ 2018 £2,364] – We are a long way from a no-spend year on stuff but I’m relieved that this spending line is similar to 2018 as I thought that moving house might have spiralled this into another realm as we splashed out on new [to us] curtains, gardening equipment and a Remoska oven.

Clothes & accessories – £851 [2018 £969] – I am really pleased this spending line is lower than last year, particularly when I take into account that over half of this is accounted for by new waterproof jackets.  We took a deep breath and bought quality so hope they will last for years and years – maybe until we die?

Experiences – £10,952 [48% of total spending] [2018 14.095 / 51%]

Holidays [our favourite spending line] – £3,601 [2018 £4,681] – Our holiday spending is less than other years as [thanks to the house move] we didn’t get abroad but we did spend a fantastic two months touring Scotland.  Factor in the cost of the ferry to Spain in 2018 [about £900] and this line would have pretty much stayed the same; the ferries are really the biggest chunk of our holiday costs.  We spent only 108 nights away in our campervan, less than previous years [again due to the house move] but campsites in the UK are often more expensive than mainland Europe.  We took ourselves off for 10-days during the house buying process and returned to a pile of paperwork waiting to be signed, after that we hardly dared venture away.  This does include a splash-out weekend in a swanky Lake District hotel to celebrate a significant birthday.

Restaurants & cafes – £2,418  [2018 £2,963] – This is another chunk of spending that we can keep under control if we need to but we love meeting friends for meals out and sitting in friendly cafes.  So I am surprised [and pleased] this spending is lower than in 2019 as we seem to have been out with friends on plenty of occasions … but the numbers don’t lie!

Running the campervan [servicing & insurance etc] – £1,931 [2018 £2,578] – I was excited to find that moving to Morecambe from Salford reduced our insurance costs on our campervan, although it is no longer parked in a gated car park!  2018 was an expensive year for our ‘van and in 2019 we didn’t take such a hit spending £800 on fixing things on our campervan to keep it on the road.  Our ‘van is almost five years old and has driven around 50,000 miles and among other things it needed new brakes and reversing sensors.  I think the ‘van might be saving everything up for 2020 though!

Diesel for the above ‘van – £1,500 [2018 £1,937 ] – This is lower due to reduced campervan trips and lower mileage through the year.

Tickets for concerts, football & attractions – £941 [2018 £1,114] – A cheaper year but we have still had lots of fun experiences seeing bands, going to the football and getting face to face with a pine marten.

Transport costs included buses, trains & parking – £561 [2018 £670] – My target to walk 2,019 km in 2019 kept this number down as I was constantly choosing to walk rather than take the tram or bus.  We have spent more for the last two months of the year since moving to Morecambe, as not wishing to pollute the world more than we need to we have taken the train to Manchester on all but one occasion.

Giving – £654 [3% of total spending] [2018 £1,025 / 4%]

Gifts & donations – £654 [2018 £1,025] – Another discretionary spending line and we can only hope our family and friends understand why presents, although still thoughtful, have been small in 2019.

TOTAL SPENDING FOR 2019 – £22,478 – staying comfortably within our £26,000 budget helps to give us some financial resilience for future years.

 

 

 

A 1940s tour around Morecambe Bay

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Vintage gifts

When we moved to Morecambe we received a whole pile of cards wishing us happiness in our new home and a few lovely gifts.  One of the most memorable gifts was from an old friend whose grandma had lived in Bolton-le-Sands on Morecambe Bay.  She generously gave us two items that had once belonged to her grandmother.

The old half-inch map for cyclists and motorists for the Lancaster District is a beautiful cloth map that has been unfolded and folded many times.  I enjoy looking at old maps and this one gives an interesting insight into how Morecambe grew in the latter half of the 20th century.  Our bungalow was built in the 1960s and the map shows the fields that were here before and Morecambe is shown as a fishing village and not the seaside resort it is now.   Inside the cardboard cover to the map are two adverts that give a glimpse into another world.  One is to Tranter’s First Class Temperance Hotel in Bridgewater Square and the other is for Dr J Collis Browne’s Chlorodyne, a remedy for coughs, colds, consumption, bronchitis and asthma which will also cut short attacks of epilepsy and hysteria and makes claims as being useful for a wide range of illnesses from gout and cancer to toothache!

My friend’s other gift was , ‘The History of Morecambe Bay’ by Michael McDermott, an illustrated pamphlet from 1948.  In his forward, Michael McDermott tells us that, ‘For years it has been my custom to cycle along the coast, and thus come across many of the antiquities of the area.’  I am sure Michael McDermott also owned a copy of the old cloth map.

Michael McDermott begins by considering the origin of the name Morecambe [pronounced more – cam, the b and e are silent] and suggests the name may mean the bending shore or the beautiful haven or that it may derive from Mwr Cwm, meaning hollow in the hills.  Today, according to The Morecambe Bay Partnership, the name is from, Morikambe eischusis  [tidal flats in Greek].  This name was recorded on a map between the Solway and Ribble estuaries by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in 150 AD.

Michael McDermott’s journey around Morecambe Bay begins in Lancaster with the Romans and then follows the River Lune to the picturesque Sunderland Point and the gem that is Overton Church.  He then takes his reader by bicycle on to Heysham, which he describes as a ‘wooded headland’ with the stone coffins on the headland and he gives some details about the area’s links with St Patrick.

Moving north, Michael McDermott frustratingly doesn’t have much to say about Morecambe itself.  ‘Adjacent to Heysham we have the holiday resort of Morecambe, which has developed in the last hundred years from a small fishing village called Poulton-le-Sands. Morecambe has the usual theatres, fair-grounds and swimming-bath of a holiday resort, and beyond that is of little interest to us.’  So much has changed in Morecambe since 1948, with the fair and lido now gone and I would have been very interested to read about what the town was like 70 years ago.

This clearly isn’t the booklet to get a clear picture of Morecambe back in the 1940s but reading it aloud to each other we did learn about Torrisholme long barrow.  Michael McDermott writes, ‘The skulls found in barrows like this are peculiarly elongated in form, and the name given to the particular race who erected the long barrows is “the long-headed men.”  Some barrows are round – they were built by the “round-headed men.”‘  Now referred to as a Bronze Age Round Barrow, some suggest Torrisholme Barrow was the old law hill of the area before Lancaster Castle was built but no one refers to the people that built it as having particularly elongated heads!

Michael McDermott does give us a glimpse of the fishing industry that existed around Morecambe Bay.  He tells us that you would once have seen fishermen cleaning mussels on the promenade at Morecambe and at Bolton-le-Sands he meets Mr and Mrs Wilson who search for cockles in the bay in all weathers.  He describes the cockle beds and the ‘cram,’ a curved fork used to scoop up the cockles and a board with handles that was called a ‘jumbo’ and was used to bring the cockles to the surface.  He romanticises the hard work of these ‘fisher-folk,’ telling us, ‘Living close to nature as they do, the minds of the fisherfolk are totally free from the inhibitions that are the curse of an over-industrialised society, and their  spontaneous generosity, humour, and interest in simple things make their friendship a pleasure for all who are fortunate to come into contact with them.’

Much of the pamphlet gives readers the details about the route across the sands of Morecambe Bay.  Before the railway and good roads this was a frequently used, if perilous, way from Ulverston to Furness and Kents Bank to Arnside and Hest Bank.  There is still a Queen’s Guide to the Kent Sands living in the house on Cart Lane at Kents Bank and regular cross bay walks for charity occur in the summer and are a marvellous and safe day out.  Michael McDermott tells us that, ‘The post of Guide to the Sands is many centuries old, and was created by the Crown in 1337, after several people had lost their lives while making the crossing.’

The other method of traversing Morecambe Bay is also referred to in the pamphlet.  It seems that swimming across Morecambe Bay used to be a summer event that attracted many competitors.  The course from Grange to Morecambe was first completed in 1907 by “Professor” Stearne in three hours 45 minutes 41 seconds.  Due to changes in the waters of Morecambe Bay the swim was stopped in 1991.

Although out-of-date, this charming history booklet has told us about a number of places we didn’t know.  On the Cumbrian side of Morecambe Bay are the earth works of a motte and bailey castle on Adlingham’s Moat Hill.  In the 1940s this was thought to be another burial mound and Michael McDermott quite alarmingly writes, ‘In view of the many signs of early man which have been unearthed in this neighbourhood, there is no doubt that in the dim past this area was the most important part of the bay, and countless young girls must have been butchered in the exotic religious rights which the old heathens carried out at their stone circles and caves.’

While ideas about the activities of ancient people have changed considerably, Morecambe Bay remains an English gem that is well worth exploring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Writing That Tells a Story is not a Guidebook

2016 Oct Lake District (1)

I might often fail but I aim to be a travel writer that tells stories about places.  Pretty much each of my travel articles has a narrative thread through it and I work hard to weave travel information that is handy for the campervan and motorhome community through this story, along with history and fascinating facts so that the article is both inspiring and useful.

I find various ways of telling a story.  In some articles I have followed an earlier traveller, such as Bonnie Prince Charlie from Scotland to Derby [published May 2019] or Celia Fiennes on the Welsh border [published February 2017].  In other articles I have focused on local food.  I took this approach for a trip to Lancashire [February 2015] and found the atmospheric cave-like wine shop in Clitheroe.  More recently I visited the Conwy Honey Fair [August 2019] where everything related to honey can be purchased.  In Spain I tried to get under the skin of the Spanish Civil War in my December 2019 article.  Sometimes it is other writers that have inspired my trip; Alan Garner took me to Cheshire [November 2018], in Somerset and Devon [August 2018] I followed various authors and my latest MMM article to East Sussex explores the world of some of my favourite children’s authors.  At times I chase my own memories; my trip around familiar Staffordshire towns and villages was one such trip [July 2016].

I try to write something that readers will enjoy, that will entertain them and that they will want to read until the end because they are following my story.  On the way I will try to bring the place alive, maybe the smell of wood smoke in a Tuscan village, the taste of creamy ice-cream in Lancashire or the feel of the Orcadian wind in their hair.  Readers can join me in the thrill of trying different Belgian beers in a small friendly bar, my frustrations with the weather or getting lost and my enthusiasm when I find something truly unique.

Good travel writing isn’t about statistics and lists, the ten best things to do, the cheapest restaurant for authentic food or the most comfortable hotels.  While these things are useful once you are into the detail of planning your trip, for real inspiration I like to think readers want a story that paints a picture of a place.  Initially, fellow travellers want to know if that place has something to interest them.  They want to know if it is their kind of town or country and whether they might want to follow in my footsteps, making a trip that will become their own story.

My favourite travel writer is Dervla Murphy an inspirational author who writes intimate tales from unlikely places that bring both the place and the people alive.   Although inspirational, it is her warmth and interest in people that I want to follow her example of.  Every one of her books makes me feel as if I have walked or cycled alongside her on her journey.  In an interview in the Irish Examiner she modestly said,

“If I am to be remembered, I’d like to be remembered as someone who was interested in the ordinary people of whatever country I was in.”

I understand I will never achieve the brilliance of Dervla Murphy and that is fine, we all have to have people we look up to.  So long as I find stories hidden in the places I go to I will keep sharing them with readers.

To read any of my published travel articles head for the relevant page on the blog from the menu at the top.

 

 

The Archers: My Unfashionable Story of Country Folk

Tractor

Whenever we travel around Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire I feel as if I am in an episode of The Archers.  I will spot a Home Farm, a village green, a black-and-white timber-framed pub or a farm shop and I am immediately reminded of the fictional residents of Ambridge in Borsetshire that I know so well.

A couple of minutes past seven Sunday to Friday it is best not to disturb me.  If I am at home I will generally be listening to Radio Four and an episode of The Archers.  My relationship with this long running radio soap opera began as a child when The Archers had already been broadcast for about 20-years.  Since 1950 Radio Four has been telling the story of rural folk in a fictional village called Ambridge in Borsetshire.  When I began listening I lived with my parents in the English countryside.  Even then the drama of the southerners living in Ambridge was hardly recognisable.

Even though I have been a city dweller for over 30 years, I still listen to this rural soap opera.  I have had breaks when we travelled for a year and on our extended holidays but it is easy to pick up, nothing changes so much in Ambridge that I can’t follow the new story lines.

One of the reasons I like the Archers is because stories unfold over months or even years.  There is plenty of drama [perhaps too much these day] but it does at least have a realistic time-scale.  I am usually cooking when the programme is aired in the evening and being radio I can listen and cook at the same time, giving about half my brain to the story.

The high-emotion story lines are not what I enjoy about The Archers, it is the everyday that appeals to me.  I want to take a short peak into the lives of people I have grown up with over the years and check in with how they are doing without feeling traumatised.  The Grundy’s are having trouble getting their elderly cider press to work, one of the cows is poorly at Brookfield and Hilda the cat is missing, these are the stories that work for me.  There is a warmth and gentleness about these stories in today’s world.  Peculiar to radio, The Archers can have silent characters, people who are referred to but never heard,  Derek Fletcher and the Sabrina Thwaite are just two personalities that add colour without being heard.

While often listening is comfortingly uneventful, there have been a number of big issue story lines recently that have put off listeners who don’t want distressing stories to interfere with the rural idyll.   Family squabbles and neighbourly disputes are the bread and butter of The Archers liberally dotted with fun and games at the Flower and Produce Show or the Christmas Panto.  Without these The Archers is nothing and when the easy companionable humour and neighbourliness disappears I will switch off for good.   I hope the dedicated team of scriptwriters continue to write gentle and amusing stories so I can relax and not have my imaginary world rocked!

Although radio drama leaves so much to the imagination, I enjoy exploring the counties I associate it with to add substance to the pictures in my head.   A bit of research reveals that Cutnall Green in Worcestershire could be the fictional village of Ambridge, it has a shop and nearby pub, a cricket team and is surrounded by farmland.  Other contenders are Inkberrow and Hanbury, both also in Worcestershire.  While Inkberrow has its own timber-framed pub, called The Old Bull and a village green, Hanbury has Summerhill Farm, thought to be the model for Brookfield, and Hanbury Hall, which has some resemblance to Lower Loxley Hall.  St. Mary the Virgin church in Hanbury has been used for Ambridge weddings.  I can see a more focused trip to visit these villages forming in the Archer’s half of my brain!

 

 

Southport: A no-sweat campervan trip

Southport and Formby (Nov 2019)
The woods at Formby

I wonder if every campervan or motorhome owner has at least one no-sweat place.  These are camping trips to somewhere familiar and where no planning or research is needed.  You don’t have to think about what you will do when you get there, you just have a day or two free, you need a break and after a short drive you can park up the campervan, motorhome or caravan and immediately relax.  We have a number of these places and Southport is one of them that we often visit in the winter months.

There are a couple of options for parking your campervan when staying in Southport.  The Caravan and Motorhome Club Site tends to be our preferred option as we seek peace and quiet.  Since it’s refurbishment some years ago this site has plenty of space and two sanitary blocks and is only a few minutes walk from the town.  The other option is the car park next to Pleasureland funfair.  This level hard-standing area is free or £3 for a hook-up and a good budget option but it can be crowded and noisy.

Southport has a long promenade and walking along here is my top favourite thing to do and we will usually get out to do this as soon as our arrival brew is finished.  The sands are vast at Southport and the sea can seem a long way away and looking to the west you get a sense of space that is stunning.  We will usually take in the 1,000 metre long pier too if it is open and stand above the sands.  In winter we will look out for waders along the shoreline or we might wait for one of Southport’s spectacular sunsets.  The end of the Marine Lake is a good place to take an about turn and follow the inland shore of the lake, occasionally stopping to watch the ducks and swans and taking a wander through King’s Gardens.

Our next stop will be the town centre.  A stroll under the wrought-iron canopies of Lord Street is a real Southport experience.  We are not big on shopping but if you are then there is plenty here to look around.  We usually look for a cafe and last time we visited we warmed up in Remedy, an independent cafe.  The cafe is situated in a mock-Victorian glass house in the gardens in front of the Town Hall.  It is a cosy and relaxing cafe where on a winter’s afternoon you can snuggle up with a hot chocolate spiced up with your choice of alcohol and read a newspaper or choose a board game.  We people watched and had a spirited couple of games of dominoes.

On our next walk we will take in Victoria Park, a large green space near to the campsite and follow the Queen’s Jubilee Nature Trail, an interesting area of old sand dunes and bushes.

Trips to Southport are generally on the spur of the moment.  Most recently we were so stressed by our house moving we packed and went on a whim.  We never plan to be there for a particular event but there is often something going on in Southport.  Our visits have coincided with firework displays, the Christmas lights switch on and in the summer months we have visited the popular flower show.  Southport also has attractions such as Pleasureland, the British Lawnmower Museum and a Model Railway Village.

When we have taken our bicycles to Southport we have followed the cycle route south down the coast and into the woodland around Formby.  The cycle path is noisy along the busy main road but once you are among the trees it is blissful.  The sandy paths meander up and down the old dunes, through tall pine trees.  When we don’t have the bikes we park the ‘van in one of the spacious National Trust car parks [we are not members and so have to pay the £7.50] and take a walk through this wonderful area.

If you have never been to Formby before I almost envy you that first sight of the long sweep of beach, backed by sand dunes and coastal pinewoods.  The scenery and the wildlife here is very special and it is the perfect place for a walk or just to sit.  In spring you might spot a great crested newt in one of the ponds among the dunes and in the summer there are plenty of butterflies.  Many people come to Formby because this is a stronghold of red squirrels and these are here all year round but recently it has become more difficult to see them.  Squirrel pox is a highly infectious disease that has been found among this threatened group of red squirrels and the National Trust are discouraging visitors from feeding the squirrels as this brings them together and helps the infection spread.  But stay a while and you might be lucky and spot one of these beautiful animals.

The National Trust provide a map showing different trails of various lengths around Formby and there are toilets and usually a refreshment van near the main car park.  The beach is always a magnet for visitors and you rarely have it to yourself but there is enough room for everyone.  If you seek solitude then follow one of the less trodden paths and you will soon discover your own Formby.

Tell me your own no-sweat campervan trips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frugal Flitting: Trying to save money while moving house

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Moving house is a pretty expensive undertaking, as well as being one of the most stressful experiences you can put yourself through.  For the frugal, moving house isn’t something to undertake lightly as it will eat up a chunk of money.  If the reason for yearning to relocate can be fixed by building a garage or a shed, fitting a new kitchen or changing the layout of your rooms then it is always worth considering that first.  But once you’ve decided that moving home is the only way to go how do you do this within a budget?

We made the decision to move from our Salford flat to somewhere more tranquil earlier this year; only closing all the roads would make Salford quieter, so finding a new place to live became the only option.  Moving house wasn’t something we had budgeted for when we retired in 2017, we thought we would be in Salford until the end of our days but being comfortable where we live is important and fortunately we had the flexibility within our finances to spend the money we needed to.

We had always built in some contingency to our early retirement planning but mostly we were only able to afford a move because we had continued to live frugally in our retirement and because we had earnings from my travel writing.  With two years experience of our spending in our retired life, we gave the savings we had left a good hard look, made a spreadsheet and planned what we could afford to spend on moving house.  Our Morecambe home cost a tad more than our Salford flat and on top of this the process of moving home cost us £4,761.  There isn’t much slack in our savings now [we can’t move again!] but we have retained that contingency fund and feel comfortable.

Below is where we managed to shave a bit off the cost of moving house.

Solicitors – £1,711

We are members of Unison and this gives us a discount with BBH Legal Services Ltd.  There are cheaper conveyancing solicitors out there but cheap does not always mean the most efficient and helpful.  During the process of selling our flat our chain was held up on more than one occasion due to the incompetence of a solicitors that offered a cheap online service and had clearly taken on more work than he could manage.  Having a proficient solicitor is important in keeping the stress levels down during a move and in our experience BBH were always available and realistic and gave an excellent service at a reasonable cost.

Packing – £53

We saved money by doing the packing ourselves and also saved 75p per box by buying used cardboard boxes from a Manchester storage company.  We don’t have lots of delicate trinkets but we have china plates, bowls and mugs.  It turned out that large rolls of plastic bubble wrap were not necessary to protect these precious items.  We bought 100 sheets of tissue paper from the storage company for £4 which was plenty and nothing got broken between Salford and Morecambe.  After we had moved we advertised the boxes as being available online.  Someone asked for them almost immediately and gave us wine and chocolates when we delivered the now third-hand boxes!

Removal firm – £662

Last time we moved house we hired a van and moved ourselves but this move was further and would have needed two trips as we now owned two sofas [so much for minimalism] so we decided to pay for the professionals.  We shopped around for a good removal firm, asked for recommendations on local Facebook groups and eventually choosing a small firm in Morecambe.  They were not only excellent, compared to Manchester-based companies, they were about £300 cheaper.  They were also around £500 cheaper than the one large national firm we received a quote from.  Every member of the company, from arranging a quote, to setting the date and moving our furniture, were friendly and efficient.  Buying local and outside metropolitan areas can be cost saving.

Estate Agent – £2,040

Last time we moved house we didn’t use an estate agent but sold it ourselves, just paying a small fee to have the house advertised on the relevant websites.  We did this because of the local market and we put a lot of work in ourselves leafleting locally and showing people around.  Our flat was a different place to sell and we knew this time we needed the help of an estate agent.  We considered three estate agents and did hire the most expensive of those three because they were local and we felt they knew the development we lived in best and would sell it to prospective buyers.  We hoped this would lead to a successful quick sale of our flat.  We saved £200 by refusing the premium listing cost they offered for better photographs and a highlighted listing online.  The flat sold in just a few weeks but how much that was down to how we presented it [we worked hard to ensure it looked its best] and how much to the Estate Agent’s work is a bit of an unknown.  Maybe it was team work!

Energy Performance Certificate – £45

We had to have one of these completed for our flat and we shopped around ourselves, rather than paying for one through the Estate Agent, saving ourselves £30.

Stamp Duty – £250

This is a fixed cost that relates to the price of the property you are buying.

I am sure we could have done this cheaper … have you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel and Change of Place Impart new Vigour to the Mind

France 2018 Lavender

‘Travel and change of place impart new vigour to the mind,’ is an often cited and apparently thoughtful quote from  Seneca, a wealthy and powerful Roman Stoic philosopher and writer.  Many travellers use this quote as, although it was written 2,000 years ago, these words still holds some truth today.  Many of us feel that taking a break from the everyday comfortable routine can be refreshing, give me a chance to see things with new eyes and look beyond the familiar daily grind, encountering vivid ideas that can lead me to innovation and change.  Seeing new sights can be mind expanding and renews our get-up-and-go and connects us to Seneca the philosopher.

Wanting to understand what Seneca was saying, I searched for the specific reference or context of this quote but hit a brick wall, only finding others who state this is wrongly attributed to Seneca but no information about who the quote is from.  Also the more I read about Stoicism the less sense these words meant in relation to its teachings.

Stoicism teaches the four cardinal virtues for a good life, wisdom, temperance, justice and courage.  As a Stoic, Seneca argued that passionate anger or grief should be moderated and he would approve of the classic stiff upper lip.  Stoicism teaches that happiness is found in acceptance and by not allowing our desire for pleasure and our fear of pain to control actions.  Seneca thought it was important for everyone to consider their own mortality and face up to dying, not to encourage a pessimistic attitude but to reinforce how lucky we are to be alive and live for today.  Studying Stoicism can lead to reflection and philanthropy and can help us understand our place in the world and encourage us to treat others fairly and justly.  As a Stoic Seneca recognised his own short-comings compared to his own role models and was always willing to learn.

Stoicism in many ways fits well with today’s minimalist movement.  A Stoic admires frugality and sees no shame in being seen wearing old clothes, driving a battered car or living in a run down house … image is nothing and boasting about a luxury holiday or posting glamorous photographs on social media would be a far cry from Stoicism.

There seems some tension between this often quoted phrase of Seneca’s and the principles of Stoicism.  Some argue that Seneca would support the sentiment of the quote while considering that it is the intent of the travel and the disposition of the traveller that are important.  He wrote, ‘Where you arrive does not matter so much as what sort of person you are when you arrive here.’

Travel to find peace of mind is not promoted by Stoicism as this inner harmony needs to be achieved from within and moving to a new place won’t make you happy, ‘You must change the mind, not the venue,’  Seneca wrote.  Stoicism argues that travel in itself cannot lead to self-improvement.  Yet, travel that combines frugality with learning could fit into the Stoic’s way of life.

Taking a break from work can give your mind a chance to wander into new areas and that is when some bright spark of an idea can pop in but I find that even getting out for a walk can give the same result, never mind a full-blown holiday.  As Tim Harford argues in this FT article, you don’t need a long holiday to give your brain chance to relax and re-boot.  A weekend away works just as well and the benefits of a longer break wear off just as quickly as a short one.  Such news is all a bit distressing for someone who loves long holidays and I personally find that the benefits of a long holiday lie deeper and of course, all this is different when you are not returning to work.  It is true that when we were working folk we would get away on a Friday night for a weekend and face Monday morning much refreshed.

Whether or not this quote is actually something Seneca wrote, Stoicism suggests that happiness can be found through our acceptance of how things are and imparting new vigour to the mind certainly doesn’t have to be found by investing in an expensive holiday or retreat.  If a few days camping is out of the question we can all get a similar feeling of new vigour from seeing your own locality with fresh eyes.  You might take a different route to work or explore a local park you’ve never visited before or even read a different genre of novel or watch a new TV programme.  Constant learning and removing yourself from your comfort zone can impart new vigour to your mind.